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Mythical Monsters, by Charles Gould, [1886], at

p. 405




"The Shăn belongs to the snake species."

“The Tsah Ping Shu (Work on Military Science) says: 'In drilling an army,  when you arrange it like the Shăn expelling its breath, its appearance is like that of a snake, but the waist is large; below there are scales, running backwards.'

“One says that its form is like that of the Ch‘i-lung, which has ears and horns and a mane of a red colour. When it exhales its breath, it forms a cloud just like a palace or tower, looking as if its walls are moving in a cloud of mist, or like a weary bird flying above. This makes everyone feel very happy until the exhalation or snorting of the breath is finished.

“There is a popular saying about building a Shăn tower. When the sky appears to rain you can see a resemblance of it.

“The Shi-Ki (Book of Odes or Classical Poetry) uses the expression, 'The Shăn's breath forms a tower'; it is in allusion to this.

“At the present day it is said that the Chi (a pheasant or francolin ) and the snake copulate and produce the Shăn.

“The oily substance of Shăn combined with wax makes the Chinese wax candles, the fragrance of which, when burning, can be recognized for one hundred feet in all directions; and the smoke emitted from the flame forms the appearance of a tower.”

“The Pih T‘an (Familiar Stories) says that at Tang-cheu (in Shantung), in the midst of the sea, there are often clouds arise and appear

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like the imperial palace, or towers of the city walls, and there is also an appearance of people, carriages, and horses busily engaged [mirage?]. They call this phenomenon 'the market of the sea,' while others say it is but the breath of the Shăn Kiao.

“The Wu Léi Siang Kan Chi says the Shăn is but another sort of dragon, and can be found in some of the ponds and wells. They throw out the air, forming rain as in the locality of Wu San Yin.

“The P‘i Ya Kwang Yao says, when a snake transforms it becomes a shăn, in the likeness of the Kiao, but without paws.”


"The twelfth chapter of Ching Kiün Chw‘en says that Hü Ching Kiün, author of the above book, met a youth, quite handsome in his apparel. The youth pretended to be very modest, Hu Kiün knowing all the time that he was a Kiao in another form. So he told his followers, 'I regret to think that the province of Kiang-si will often meet with the misfortune of inundation if we do not exterminate that Kiao Shăn, and are not careful to prevent its escape.' But the Shăn knew what Hu Kiün was saying, and gradually slipped away to a place called Sung-sha-cheu, where he transformed himself into a yellow ox. But at the same time Ching Kiün also transformed himself into a black ox, tying a handkerchief over his neck to distinguish him from the other ox, and ordered his disciple, Shi Tai Yu, to use his sword, and thrust at the left thigh, because he had entered within the city wall, in the western part of which there is a well. By jumping this well he found a road to Tau-cheu, and once more transformed himself into a handsome youth, and by so doing got married to the daughter of a magistrate called Ku Yu, with plenty of jewels and gold. Then Ching came to see Ku Yu and said, 'I hear that you have a very noble son-in-law. May I see him?' Ku answered 'Yes,' and told him to come out. But he excused himself upon account of sickness, and hid himself. Then Ching Kiün, saying, 'The dangerous things of the rivers and the lake are old devils, and they dare to transform themselves into human beings,' ordered the son-in-law to transform himself into his original form, and hid himself beneath the table. Then the magistrate said, 'Kill this,' and they did so. Then Kiün sprinkled water on the two sons, and they were immediately transformed into Shăn. [There must be children born from the marriage.—Translator.] He advised Ku Yu that he must put them away immediately, or the whole house would be in danger of breaking."

"The Tai Ping Kwang Ki says that the lake of Wan Tun, at Fì Chi, contains a Shăn which often fought with the Shăn of Lake Su. Near this lake is a place called Yao, where there lived a man called Chang Sing Shan, of great bravery, and an expert archer. He once dreamed that a Shăn snake was transformed into a Taouist, and then it said to

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him: 'I am endangered by the Shăn of the lake of Lu. Can your honour assist me? if so I will reward you heavily. The tight white chain is me.' Next day Sing Shan went with a youth of Yao to the shore of the lake and dreamed. He waited until the waves rose and the surf struck the shore, making a noise like thunder. He saw two oxen coming, one with a white belly and legs; then Sing Shan discharged an arrow at it, and it turned out to be a Shăn. The water immediately turned into blood, and the Shăn, after receiving the wound, tried to return to the lake of Lu, but died before it reached there."

Kang Hi Dictionary.

“The Shăn Kiao belongs to the Kiao species, and also has the appearance of a snake. It has horns like a dragon; the mane is red below the waist; all the scales are projecting. It eats swallows, and can emit an air which appears like a tower.

“Again, any turtle when old enough may be called a Shăn.”


405:* Extract from the Yuen Keen Lei Han, vol. ccccxxxviii., p. 23.

405:† In drilling an army there are names for all positions of the army. Thus, the general says: "Arrange yourselves like a snake, or like a dragon, or any other imaginable shape."

405:‡ Williams gives this translation only, but I think there must be another meaning; probably some sort of reptile is indicated.